Current Events

The Case for Colonialism: Don’t retract, rebut…. and censure those who seek to silence.

In a recent paper entitled “The case for colonialism” Bruce Gilley argued that “Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found”. Gilley then argued that colonialism should be “recovered” “by reclaiming colonial modes of governance, by recolonizing some areas, and by creating new Western colonies from scratch”. These are highly controversial claims. But it is unlikely that Gilley anticipated the antipathy with which they would be received. Two petitions were initiated—gathering over 15,000 signatures between them—demanding that the journal in which the paper was published (Third World Quarterly) retract it.These petitions were followed by the resignation of several of the members of the journal’s editorial board in protest at the article’s publication.

But the calls for the retraction of this article are inappropriate responses to Gilley’s controversial claims. Gilley’s article does not meet either of the conditions that the publishers of Third World Quarterly (Taylor & Francis) have outlined for the retraction of articles. It should not be retracted for “unsound results” because its conclusions are not “seriously undermined as a result of miscalculation or error”. And it should not be retracted for “misconduct” for Gilley has made no “infringement of publishing ethics” nor has there been any claim that he has breached any “author warranties”.

The claim that this article should not be retracted is not new. But in response to the antipathy that he has been faced Gilley has requested that the article be withdrawn–not because he now believes that his arguments are mistaken, but because it has cased “pain” and generated “anger”. But Third World Quarterly should not accede to this request–the article should remain available. That an article upsets people is no grounds for its withdrawal. Moreover, if the journal did allow the article to be withdrawn it would violate the policy of the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers Guideline for “Preservation of the Objective Record of Science” (to which the journal’s publisher subscribes) that “Articles that have been published should remain extant, exact, and unaltered to the maximum extent possible”.

It might be argued that Gilley’s paper should be retracted because his arguments do not support his conclusion, and so these are undermined “as a result of… [argumentative] error”. But to argue in this way would require that one first demonstrate where Gilley is mistaken–one would have to engage with his work, not simply call for its retraction. And even if one could show that his arguments were flawed this should not be used to support a call for retraction, for this would justify the retraction of any paper whose conclusions have been arrived at through erroneous argumentation. And this is not how academic debates are conducted—and nor should it be. Instead, persons present their conclusions supported by the best arguments and evidence that they can muster. These are then subject to critical scrutiny with the aim of identifying and correcting errors in the arguments. If the arguments are found not to support the conclusion then the original paper should be rebutted—not retracted.

But there’s more to be said in this case. The petitions demanding the retraction of this article secured over 15,000 signatures. I very much doubt that everyone who signed these petitions actually read the paper. Demanding that a paper be retracted because you don’t like its arguments is bad enough. Demanding that it be retracted because you don’t like what you think its conclusion is without having even read it is despicable. Moreover, if you’re an academic, a demand for retraction on either of these grounds would be a clear abdication of your professional responsibility. It is thus not Gilley who should be censured. It is the academics (such as Jenny Heijun Wills, Rebecca Salazar, and Carrianne Leung) who initiated and signed these deplorable petitions.

As a brief aside: If you object to the mocking of work in English, Gender Studies, and Geography that’s based not on reading the papers but simply on their titles and abstracts (e.g., those offered up for ridicule by places such as Real Peer Review) then you should be even more concerned with the demand that a paper be retracted on the basis of a similarly cursory examination.


  • obenm

    Should the article have been accepted in the first place?

    • James Taylor

      Well, it was published as a provocative “Viewpoint” piece, which I understand is TWQ’s equivalent of an Op-Ed. I’ve read it, and don’t think it would pass muster as a peer-reviewed piece–at least, the criticisms of anti-colonialist arguments that it offers are appalling weak. (I’m not competent to judge the positive arguments that are made.)

      • Rob Gressis

        It was submitted to the journal and rejected under peer review.

        • Sean II

          I’m less interested in whether the authors made a good argument, than in whether there’s a good argument to be made. And in this case there is:

          1) Most arguments for open immigration include the idea that one of the best ways to improve the life of Third World people is by moving them to places with First World institutions.

          2) Most trade agreements and conditional aid programs include the related premise that one of the best ways to improve life in Third World nations is by encouraging the development of First World institutions.

          3) Failed states are a global externality, so there are grounds to intervene when Third World states court failure by rejecting First World institutions.

          4) Most of the First World elite believes in using coercion for policies they deem important – mandatory schooling, health insurance, etc.

          5) For at least two decades, the project of getting more and more Third World people to live under First World institutions has been a favorite of those elites, as revealed by international trade and development policies, and by the trend toward greater 3rd=>1st immigration.

          6) From the above, it takes only a short leap to say: let’s find a more comprehensive way to bring the protection of First World institutions to Third World people who currently lack them, and suffer for that lack. Perhaps by moving institutions whole to places where they live, perhaps even if coercion is required…

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Excellent contribution. My only quibble would be your contention that First World elites consider the folks they coerce important. For said elite, in both its leftist and neocon expressions, the vision is what is important, not the people. Neoconservative don’t consider Iraqis important, and Marxists don’t attach great importance to individual laborers.

          • Sean II

            “You see, a statist’s love is very different from that of a square…”

            Guess I had something like 1984 in mind. Outer Party members get a lot more attention than Proles, because the former are worth the trouble of trying to control. Proles get a lot more attention than the native people of the disputed zones, etc.

            Ask yourself who cared less about the inhabitants of Iraq…

            a.) Neo-cons with their mad dream of democratic nation-building?
            b.) People who were okay leaving Saddam, Qusay, and Uday in charge?

            Of course neither bunch meets our standards for thoughtful, effective altruism, but you can certainly argue that a) beats b) in an ethical ugly sister contest.

            Which get us to an important point: the prima facie case for taking out murderous and impoverishing Third World regimes is obvious. So maybe the real question should be “Are there any valid arguments against the moral imperative of neo-colonialism?”

            Turns out there’s really only one: “self-determination”.

            The reason why we allow places like Zimbabwe and Venezuela to ruin themselves and destabilize whole regions in the process is because we believe they have a sacred ethno-national right to do so. We think it a non-negotiable prior that Venezuelans should decide the fate of Venezuela, no matter how suicidally stupid their decisions are.

            But…and here’s the interesting part…this is something the West stopped believing about itself years ago. Ethno-nationlism is a dirty word here. Congo for the Congolese is okay to say. Germany for the Germans, not so much.

            So it turns out our best argument against colonialism is one which we ourselves no longer believe.

            Wilsonian self-determination is like an old toy we discarded as dangerous, but which we let the children of the Global South to play with still today.

          • Rob Gressis

            There are other reasons for being against colonialism besides respecting other nations’ self-determination:

            (1) It doesn’t work very well;
            (2) It corrupts the colonizing nation;
            (3) It causes lots of suffering.

            I suspect you will respond to (1) by claiming it works better, at least from a utilitarian view, than the alternative (i.e., letting those nations run their own affairs) and that with regard to (3), that, even if it causes lots of suffering, not colonizing leads to more suffering. I don’t know what you’ll say in response to (2), other than perhaps not colonizing corrupts more, or it’s worth it given the instability that non-colonized nations threaten, or something else (maybe you’ll even agree with (2)).

          • Sean II

            My responses:

            (1) You guessed right. That’s my answer. Ian Smith was less harmful than Mugabe. The Viceroy was less ruinous than Nehru and Jinnah. Ghana was better governed before 6 March 1957 than she was after. And so on in case after case.

            (2) Not necessarily. Great Britain was the most colonizing nation of all time, and the period of its expansion corresponds with a period of growing liberalism, transparency, maturity, and vigor in its institutions. The corruption only set in after the Empire forgot its confidence. I can think of cases where empire seems to have corrupted (Spain, Japan, etc.), but even in those examples it’s not clear which came first, what caused what.

            (3) Same response as (1). Consider Venezuela. A coalition of Western states could take it almost without a fight. Most of the army would desert on invasion. Much of the rest would fight on our side. We’re talking maybe 1,000 casualties. By contrast the worst case scenario for doing nothing would be something like the FARC conflict, which killed 5,000 a year for 50 years. Or, looking on the bright side, maybe the Shining Path insurgency which killed 7,000 a year for 10 years.

            The humanitarian math is squarely on the side of intervention here.

          • Rob Gressis

            OK, so a couple of things:

            First, most people have the sentiment that killing is worse than letting die. You might think that’s silly, but I think it’s correct, at least in many cases. So, our killing 1,000 people is worse than Mugabe’s killing 1,000 people. Is our killing 1,000 people worse than Mugabe’s killing a million? No. But I also don’t think we’re to blame for Mugabe’s killing a million, whereas we are for our killing 1,000. (Funnily enough, I bet a lot of anti-colonial theorists would say we *are* to blame for Mugabe’s killing a million, under the grounds that he never would have come into power were it not for our coming into Rhodesia and then leaving Zimbabwe. But if that’s right, then we *should* go back there and do something about him.)

            Second, re: self-determination: strange as it may seem, a lot of people at least *claim* to prefer being badly governed by their own than being better governed by a foreign power. I don’t know how many such people there are, and if they really believe that, or if they instead believe this: “even if my people govern me poorly at first, I have confidence they’ll get the hang of it and start to govern me better than the west.” Or perhaps the whole thing is a sham and they really do prefer being governed by a foreign power to a local one, but they just can’t say it because they don’t want to admit it to themselves or want others to hear. But I doubt it, because I think being governed by a foreign power is a big cost to many natives’ self-esteem, and it shouldn’t be ignored as a cost. (See, e.g., here:

            Third, didn’t we just have a set of experiments with nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan? I don’t know how well it’s worked out; I would imagine Afghanistan’s government is preferable to the Taliban, and that Iraq’s is preferable to Saddam, but there’s a lot of instability in those areas, no? I grant that it is different nation-building in the Middle East than in, say, South America, but what about Africa?

          • Rob Gressis

            I realize I made a major oversight. There is this possibility I didn’t think of:
            1. Before colonialism, things were ok.
            2. Colonialism made things worse.
            3. After colonialism, things got even worse.

            If 1 is true, then, even if everything you’ve written above, Sean II, is true, it doesn’t follow that colonialism is overall a good idea. Also, what I wrote above — that Mugabe’s being bad is our fault — doesn’t justify intervention either, because our intervention caused this mess to begin with. So, let’s just stop messing things up.

            If 1 is true.

          • Sean II

            1 is false of course. Without Cecil Rhodes and his ilk, Mugabe would never have had anyone to oppress. Life in those parts before colonization was a vicious Malthusian trap.

            Also, if 3) is true then by your own sequence above, it follows that switching back to colonialism 2) would be an improvement. If 2) is worse than 1), but 3) is worse than 2), a return from 3) to 2) would be an improvement.

          • Rob Gressis

            No, I don’t think so: long-term, switching back to 2 might lead to 3 with a vengeance. Even if colonialism worked, colonizing nations lose their will for it. It can’t last forever.

          • Sean II

            “Even if colonialism worked, colonizing nations lose their will for it. It can’t last forever.”

            Well, that’s true. And of course that’s exactly what happened.

            But your sequence above seemed written entirely from the POV of the colonized. In that sense, and certainly in some cases, I think it holds good 2) is better than 3).

            You’re right, though. Once we factor in a realistic model of behavior on the colonizer side, Things Fall Apart.

            Turns out Everybody [Doesn’t] Want to Rule the World.

          • Rob Gressis

            It was written from that POV. At this point I’m just trying anything not to agree with you. I’m not used to debating the goodness of colonialism, so I don’t have a script to rely on. The exercise is very useful and engaging, though.

          • Sean II

            “At this point I’m just trying anything not to agree with you.”

            Thanks, but I’ve already got three people who do that full time. 🙂

          • Peter from Oz

            I keep thinking of that scene in ”Life of Brian”where one of the characters asks a meeting of the People’Front of Judea: ”What have the Romans ever done for us?” and those present then proceeed to shout out a long list of brilliant things the Romans had done.
            In the case of the British Empire, I’d say the report would be very good. Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the countries that were true colonies of established settlers (as well as the US) have turned out pretty well. A lot of the ohter colnies haven’t done too badly. The biggest problem with colonialism is not so much the rule by a foreign country, but the failure to prepare the colony properly for independence. In Africa this has been exarcerbated by the fact that the colonies cut across tribal lines,leaving seething restnments after the coloniser had gone.
            Maybe we need to readjust our views about colonialism actually comprises. Instead of taking over as owner, the coloniser needs to come in as a trustee, receiver or liquidator. appointed with the idea of getting the country back to a peaceful propsperous state.

          • Sean II

            1) “Most people have the sentiment that killing is worse than letting die…”

            I’ve thought about this argument for years, in connection with the Trolley Problem of course. Here’s where I landed: if the thing that makes death bad is the sanctity of life, then 1 death from killing ought to = 1 death from deliberate omission. Because the quantity of that thing which is bad (death) is the same on both sides of the sign. It’s not the blood on your hands that makes killing bad. It’s the dying. Indeed it seems a bizarre form of moral selfishness to put the cleanliness of one’s own conscience ahead of other people’s entire lives.

            2) You remind me of that classic line: “Mr. Kinnoch, I beg you to accept that there is no people on Earth who would not prefer their own bad government to the good government of an alien power.”

            Kingsley delivers it so well, even I want to agree. But I can’t, because it seems the only real reason powerful enough to birth such an odd and self-destructive preference is ethnic or national pride. Ask anyone what’s better: a Post Office that works, or a Post Office that doesn’t? They’ll endorse the one that works. And if the only thing to make them change that is changing the race or ethnicity of the Postmaster, what word can we use but chauvinism?

            3) Been waiting for that to come up. I think the answer is: Iraq and Afghanistan are not experiments in neo-colonialism. We didn’t go and brazenly take over, saying “To hell with your bungling, now we decide.” We went in trying to make a native democracy happen, installing crooks like Karzai in Afghanistan and nobodies like whatever his name was in Iraq. We advertised our intention of eventually leaving, which by itself ensures the growth of a moment-seeking opposition. We never stopped smearing the sap of self-determination around. And so on.

            A proper neo-colonial experiment would meet these conditions: we’ have to go in without apology, announce our intention to stay indefinitely, abandon any pretense of having a native head of state or central government, tell the locals in no uncertain terms their franchise is being taken away by the teacher for chronic misuse, forego the usual economy-distorting aid packages, unleash the corporate “exploiters” and let them do the developing, etc.

            NOTE: Before any bystanders wet their pants: I’m not saying we should do this. I’m saying this is what the design of a proper test case for neo-colonialism would look like. And I’m saying no such experiment has been run since the days of colonialism classic.

          • Rob Gressis

            It is group pride. Don’t you think that’s fairly natural and unavoidable? And if so, then you can’t ignore it.

          • Rob Gressis

            Re: killing/letting die: one person being killed is arguably just as bad (value theory) as letting one die, but killing is much more immoral than letting someone die (in most cases).

          • Sean II

            “…but killing is much more immoral than letting someone die (in most cases).”

            In some cases, I can kinda see it. But consider these:

            1) A patient codes and a doctor just stands there watching him. Because he is a doctor, he knows its v-fib and that the man will die if not rescued.
            2) The same doctor gets tired of waiting, and holds a pillow over the patient’s face to hurry things along.

            If we see things from the doctor’s point of view, 2) does indeed seem a bit more gruesome than 1). But really not by that much. I wouldn’t want to play tennis with either man.

            But shouldn’t our focus be on the patient? And if we do keep our attention there, doesn’t that difference get even smaller?

          • Rob Gressis

            The doctor case is nice, but there’s the other case: if killing vs. letting die makes no difference, then if you don’t donate all your disposable income to charity, you’re murdering thousands of people.

            I think the doctor case is this: doctors have a professional obligation to keep their patients alive (this is oversimplified, but you get the idea). Consequently, if a doctor lets someone die in his care, and he could have easily kept him alive, then what the doctor does is as immoral as murder.

            OK, change it from doctor to bystander. Bystander sees that so-and-so is dying and he could easily help save him at little cost to himself. He doesn’t. Isn’t what he does there as immoral as killing? I’ll bite the bullet here and say: “nope”. It’s immoral, but not that immoral.

          • Sean II

            Well, good point. There’s clearly a cost curve in here somewhere.

            My example makes it easy because the doctor merely has to do a job he’s already getting paid for, and handsomely.

            But if we make it “this man needs a kidney, for god’s sake!” the intuition falls apart.

            And you’re right, it probably falls apart even if we replace “kidney” with “all your money”.

            Note, however, that this argument only gets us to a conclusion along the lines of “100 Venezuelan lives saved aren’t worth 1 American life lost”.

            You think the people who signed that retract petition would make such an argument?

          • Rob Gressis

            “Note, however, that this argument only gets us to a conclusion along the lines of ‘100 Venezuelan lives saved aren’t worth 1 American life lost’.”

            I don’t follow. Are you saying that if my claim–that killing is more immoral than letting die–is correct, then we arrive at the conclusion that “100 Venezuelan lives saved aren’t worth 1 American life lost”?

            Remember, my claim is not that someone’s being murdered is *worse* than someone’s being allowed to die; it’s that murdering someone is more *immoral* than killing someone. I think you can grant that 1 Venezuelan life is worth 1 American life while also saying that it’s more immoral to murder 1 American than it is to let 100 Venezuelans die (depending on the circumstances in which you let them die). This is because there are deontic constraints — certain things you’re never allowed to do.

            I realize that you don’t believe in deontic constraints, but it’s a little easier if you believe in an afterlife.

          • R.Levine

            I’m not sure a deontological position would necessarily prohibit “invade Venezuela for its own good,” right? If you become aware that your next-door neighbor abuses his kids in his own house, would you claim there are deontic constraints against proactively stopping him from continuing to do so (presumably violating his property and threatening him with violence in the process)? If that’s ok, why isn’t it ok to intervene in Nic Maduro’s house? I think the reason contrived scenarios like the trolley problem are used is precisely because they’re so useful for teasing out the differences between approaches that can be massaged to return pretty much the same results in the majority of messy, real world situations.

            On the other hand, I don’t think being a consequentialist necessarily commits one to be an “integer arithmetic utilitarian.” Consider two extreme claims:

            A. It’s morally acceptable to murder a centenarian who has severe dementia and less than a month to live naturally, if doing so will save a billion lives
            B. It’s morally permissible to murder anyone, anywhere, if doing so saves one life and makes someone a little bit happier

            It’s possible to believe A and not B, and I think it’s an oversimplifying mistake to hold that consequentialism necessarily implies “1 life = 1 standard unit of utility” so that A would imply B by simple math.

          • Rob Gressis

            That’s a good comment. I’ll have to think about this more, but I’d say that I think deontic constraints work on the level of individual behavior; not so sure about state behavior. So, here are two different claims:

            1. Stop Person from doing X, for Person’s own good
            2. Stop Country from doing X, for Country’s own good

            2 and 1 are very different, because in 1 you’re stopping a single person P from hurting that numerically identical person P. In 2, you’re probably stopping bad actors A1, A2, … An from hurting innocent actors B1, B2, … Bn+x.

            2 is more like Stop Person1 from hurting Person 2. I’d once again see this in terms of role-morality: there are some roles where you’re morally required to protect Person2, but other roles where you’re not. So, if you see a parent who is a stranger beating his daughter, you have an obligation to call the police, but I think it would be supererogatory to stop him yourself.

            Rereading the thread, though, I can’t tell whether I brought up killing vs. letting die in the context of countries’ obligations to other countries or instead in the context of individuals’ obligations to other individuals.

            As for your non-integer-arithmetic-utilitarian, sure, you can do that. But there’s a certain amount of arbitrariness to it that I don’t know how a consequentialist accounts for, unless she invokes agent-relative reasons (which seems pretty non-consequentialist in spirit, at least to me); a Rossian has no problem with it, though.

          • Ron H.

            So, if you see a parent who is a stranger beating his daughter, you have
            an obligation to call the police, but I think it would be
            supererogatory to stop him yourself.

            This is interesting. If you don’t believe you should intervene personally in defense of another person being beaten because you fear for your own safety and doubt your own ability to be effective in deterring the assailant, than I agree. Otherwise I have to wonder where the policeman, your agent, got the authority to intervene if you don’t believe you have that authority yourself?

            Can those to whom we delegate authority somehow have more authority than we initially had to give them?

          • Rob Gressis

            Well, it could be that we somehow cede them that authority (if you really want to get voluntaristic about it), or perhaps it is simply a function of having people deputized to do that sort of thing.

            Here’s an analogy:

            Imagine you are a soldier in a military. Your commanding officer orders you to do X. Now, there are two reasons to do X:

            1. X will bring about much more harm than good.
            2. Your commanding officer asked you to do X.

            I’m of the opinion that if you’re in the military, 2 is the only reason that matters (barring cases where you commanding officer asks you to do something against military procedure).

            Similarly, when it comes to helping a stranger in trouble, it could be that you’re permitted to help them (ceteris paribus) but not obligated to, on the grounds that it is not your role.

            But I haven’t thought about this a whole hell of a lot.

          • Sean II

            It probably is, and I normally don’t.

            It’s just that on this particular day I’m laying a trap for people who think a) that ethnic pride is unnatural, avoidable, and utterly repulsive, while also thinking b) that colonialism is unthinkable, unspeakable, and unpublishable because it affronts the ethnic pride of the colonized.

            Recall that I formed my original argument in terms, not of what I myself think, but of that “Most 1st World Elites…” think.

          • Rob Gressis

            You don’t honestly think traps work, do you? Every position is compatible with every other position if you have enough ingenuity.

          • Sean II

            They may not work as persuasion (what does!) they work as arguments.

            I’m a big fan of the Michael Huemer school of “you believe this over here but deny it over there under the cover of a few different words…”

          • Your responses to 1 and 2 here are excellent. I have long taken the opposite position on 1, but you just caused me to question that.

          • Peter from Oz

            ANother fine example of conservatism-by-proxy on the left.

          • KK KK

            “Are there any valid arguments against the moral imperative of neo-colonialism? Turns out there’s really only one: “self-determination””.

            I would say there is another one: widespread belief in it. It doesn’t matter if self-determination is justified or not, as long as people believe in it strongly, you will encounter enough resistance to ruin your enterprise.

            It’s kind of like burning the Koran in rural Afghanistan. The truth of Islam is irrelevant; burn the book and you cut your life expectancy in short.

          • Bill Woolsey

            Ethno-nationalism is criticized in post-colonial thought as tribalism or sectarianism.

            The Congolese are made up of a variety of ethnic groups. The notion that each one should get its own state or that ethnic groups divided by state boundaries should be united is rejected.

            Sectarianism is also rejected. For example, the division of India in to India and Pakistan or cutting Israel out of Palestine.

            I don’t know that it makes much sense, but it isn’t Wilsonian entho-nationalism for the third world but not for the first world.

          • King Goat

            You’d think a self professed libertarian might be a bit more skeptical of whether coercive power wielded by X over Y ostensibly for Y’s own good really inures to the good of Y rather than X in the end.

          • Hollis Butts

            I’m reminded of Boris Johnson: “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more… Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. … the British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right… If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain. You never saw a place so abounding in bananas: great green barrel-sized bunches, off to be turned into matooke. Though this dish (basically fried banana) was greatly relished by Idi Amin, the colonists correctly saw that the export market was limited… The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”

        • quinbusflestrin

          The journal web site says it was double-blind peer-reviewed. Follow the first link to the article and see for yourself.

          • Rob Gressis

            Yeah, that story came out after I submitted my comment. When I posted my comment, the full story hadn’t come out yet. (Note that the website the first link goes to has changed since I posted my comment.)

      • DBritt

        Hmm, doesn’t that fact obviate a good portion of what’s written above? The rules that academics have around communicating academic work surely don’t apply to non-peer reviewed (or indeed peer rejected?) work that is published as a provocative opinion piece. In that case I wonder if the piece can even be “retracted.” It was never published as an academic piece in the first place. It could perhaps be removed. But retracted? Certainly a broader scope of reactions is appropriate in response to an opinion piece. Not that I disagree with you as to the appropriate response. But I think the journal has a lot more latitude for legitimate action here.

  • Sean II

    “Gilley’s article does not meet either of the conditions that the publishers of Third World Quarterly (Taylor & Francis) have outlined for retraction…[and] if the journal did allow the article to be withdrawn it would violate the policy of the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers Guideline[s]…”

    I can think of some other values, slightly upstream of the TWQ and IASTMP guidelines (rousing though they are), which might perhaps be implicated here.

    • Peter from Oz

      Do tell

  • Jack Knudson

    Really interesting read, thanks for sharing @james taylor. This is a good example of a theme in libertarian/classical liberal thought which is able to exceptionally hold really contentious ideas and analyze them squarely. Unfortunately the common left liberal response to this is a rebuttal countering some implicit and unappetizing semiotic point. The BHL/neoclassical liberal project seems like good positive work to reclaim the rich moral argument for classical liberalism. Yet I worry every time I see classical liberals engaging with these ideas. A lot of us in our community have an urge to devalue important (yet contingent) semiotic features of our society.

  • R.Levine

    I find it hard to believe it’s “unlikely that Gilley anticipated the antipathy”… isn’t colonialism pretty near the top of the list of the academic left’s sociocultural diaboli ex machina? I’m having a hard time thinking of too many other “the case for X” type proposals that I’d expect to elicit worse response (maybe “patriarchy”, or maybe lately “white nationalism”or “naziism”)…

    That said, I think the fact that he’s requested withdrawal supports James’ presumption, because if he knew what he was wading into ahead of time he should also know full well that apologizing for cultural insensitivity is merely a confirmation of guilt. So I’m intrigued: could a political science professor at a university in Portland really be so unaware of the tenor of academic sentiment these days as to think he’d be able to get away with this? Did he make a calculated decision to take on some career risk and just mis-estimate?

    • Peter from Oz

      I keep thinking of Swift’s “Modest Proposal”. Was Gilley just wanting to extract the urine a wee bit without realising how there’s no-one as humourless as a left wing academic?

  • D Hampton

    It is the academics (such as Jenny Heijun Wills, Rebecca Salazar, and Carrianne Leung) who initiated and signed these deplorable petitions.

    Why is it that English departments so often lead these kinds of pro-censorship / anti-platforming campaigns, even when the controversy centers around a paper/book/speech/person from a different field?

    Is there anything about the discipline that makes its practitioners even more politically dogmatic and intolerant, than those typically found in the other social sciences?

    • Sean II

      The inverse correlation between academic rigor and Left-wing scholactivism has long been glaring.

      The further you get from useful arts and testable hypothesis, the stronger wokey pseudo-religion becomes.

      The short version is: if you’re an unimportant person doing unimportant things in an unimportant field, you need some way to convince yourself (and others) that your existence matters.

      Moral superiority works for that.

      It’s a pretty common pattern actually. The bitter virgin comforts himself by judging the world promiscuous. He dignifies frustration by calling it chastity. The clumsy boy comforts himself by judging sports barbaric. He valorizes weakness by calling it sophistication. The feckless and lazy comfort themselves by judging work a rate race. And so on.

      Here it’s: people who aren’t very good at open intellectual debate comfort themselves by explaining why it must not be allowed.

      • A. Alexander Minsky

        Hmm, interesting post. I always thought the virgin, bitter or not, just masturbated regularly, the clumsy boy tried to accumulate the necessary capital to buy a sports team, and the feckless and lazy were indifferent, not hostile, to work.

  • rich poorman

    The US has colonies: Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Pacific islands. They have a form of “home rule” but so did a lot of the European-owned colonies in the latter stages of those empires. The Caribbean territories are poor, poorly governed, corrupt and unable to manage their own affairs to First World standards. They have an unending supply of natural attractions, and a long list of excuses for crime, pollution, etc., etc., most of which revolve around white people. In my opinion, those islands who had and still have a strong connection to a European patron — particularly Dutch and British — are much better places than the US.

  • Richard_L_Kent

    The Story Goes that Einstein after having left Germany for the United States was confronted by a letter from his German colleagues that denounced the theory of relativity as a falsehood. It was signed by more than 200 German academics. When he was asked about it he shrugged and responded, well if there was any truth to the allegations all they would have needed was one signature.

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